Barnier tells Dublin senators that the UK’s imperial past won’t bring the EU down
MICHEL BARNIER, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, used his speech to the Oireachtas (both houses of the Republic of Ireland) in Dublin to rebuke the UK as a nation with an imperial past unclear of the costs Brexit will affect.
In his address yesterday (Thursday 11 May) he stated that Ireland’s interests, such as the impact of economic ties to the UK, freedom of movement and the peace process in Northern Ireland would be supported by the EU as a bloc and as a top priority in forthcoming Brexit negotiations.
He added that the UK decision to leave the EU would come at a cost for the remaining 27 member states but that it would cost the UK “more” and also vowed that nothing in the negotiations would put peace at risk.
Barnier will visit the border with Northern Ireland today (Friday 12 May) to meet farmers and workers in a dairy co-operative and listen to those affected by Brexit.
He will join Tony Blair, former UK prime minister, at the European People’s Party (EPP) conference in Wicklow.
“With the depreciation of sterling, Brexit is already having an impact on the value of Irish exports to the UK, in particular the agri-food sector, and many in Ireland fear the return of tensions in the North.” Michel Barnier
To the Irish senators, he said: “I am very aware of the concerns of the Irish people and I am ready to find solutions.
“Some, in large countries with imperial pasts, like my own, seem to think that the EU makes them smaller. This is simply not true. In smaller countries, people are often more aware that being part of the EU increases influence and opportunities and that being part of a common project and identity does not prevent a country from keeping its own identity and making a name for itself in the world.”
“Let’s be clear: Brexit will come at a cost also to us, the 27. I am fully aware that some member states will be more affected than others. Because of its historical and geographical ties with the UK, because of your shared border and strong economic links, Ireland is in a unique position. But the EU is a bloc and any single country outside following this decision will have a higher cost.
“With the depreciation of sterling, Brexit is already having an impact on the value of Irish exports to the UK, in particular the agri-food sector, and many in Ireland fear the return of tensions in the north.
“Today, in front of these two houses, I want to reassure the Irish people: in this negotiation Ireland’s interest will be the Union’s interest. We are in this negotiation together and a united EU will be here for you.”
“Some, in large countries with imperial pasts, like my own, seem to think that the EU makes them smaller.” Michel Barnier
Brexit is a hot topic in Dublin for the impact it could potentially have on the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The Republic relies on trade with the UK and Northern Ireland in sectors such as services and agriculture, but with the introduction of a Brexit induced hard border freedom of movement for goods, people and services would be revised.
The economic growth from this trade has been a foundation of the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland.
Stormont, the Northern Irish assembly, has been in political deadlock since the DUP and Sinn Féin were once again returned as the largest parties in an election at the start of March.
The election followed a breakdown between the governing parties in January over a renewable heating scandal, which saw Sinn Féin pull out of the power-sharing executive.
The republican party have vowed not to work with their unionist counterparts until a full inquiry into the project is conducted, while a series of policy clashes on issues such as the Irish language between the parties are recognised as other barriers to the formation of a government. As a result of the stalemate, civil servants have taken on responsibility for governance and public spending decisions for the time being.
Picture courtesy of Houses of the Oireachtas
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